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Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (commonly abbreviated WC3, WCIII, or HOTT) is the second sequel in Chris Roberts' Wing Commander science fiction space combat simulation franchise of computer games, produced by Origin Systems. Released in 1994, Wing Commander III made the move from the sprite-based graphics used in previous titles to software-driven texture-mapped polygonal 3D.
WC3 featured an entirely new line of ships and fighters, abandoning the technology of Wing Commander and Wing Commander II. Terran craft were redesigned from "airplanes in space", while Kilrathi craft were totally redesigned into asymmetrical ships with prongs, barbs and fang-like surfaces. The new, blockier forms were made necessary by the then-primitive state of polygon graphics, as WC3 was released a few years before the first true 3D video cards and all 3D effects had to be calculated by the CPU.
The game made the transition from animated cut-scenes to full motion video, one of the first computer games to do so; it was frequently marketed as the world's first interactive movie. It pioneered the use of CGI backgrounds and greenscreen work; all sets were added digitally during post-production, nearly a decade before George Lucas would use the same tactic in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. A large number of branching ("interactive") conversations allow the player to choose what response his character will give; the choice may affect the other person's attitude towards your character, or even the morale of the entire crew. To act in these live action sequences, director Chris Roberts hired a formidable amount of talent, most notably Mark Hamill for the player character; the game's budget was the then unheard-of sum of USD $4 million, making it the most expensive game produced at the time. As such movie content consumes a large amount of data storage, the game was packaged on four CD-ROMs instead of floppy disks, another emerging technology at that point.
The protagonist of the previous two games was officially assigned a name in WC3, Colonel Christopher Blair (played by Hamill). As the man giving the orders, Blair often gets to choose what ship he will fly, what missiles it will carry, and what wingman (wingmen) he will take with him. As in WC1, some wingmen can be killed permanently in combat. Blair's call sign remained customizable until the future Wing Commander title Wing Commander: Prophecy, where he ceased being a player-character and was canonically nicknamed "Maverick."
A novelization of the game, by William R. Forstchen and Andrew Keith, was published in 1995. A collectible card game adaptation was published in the same year by Mag Force 7 Productions, under the helm of noted science-fiction authors Margaret Weis and Don Perrin. The sequel, Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom, was released in 1996.
The opening cutscene, the first FMV cutscene in the Wing Commander series, depicts a saddening scene: Thrakhath nar Kiranka, Crown Prince of the Kilrathi Empire, presiding over the execution by disintegration of a group of Terran Confederation POWs. One, however, is left alive: Colonel Jeannette "Angel" Devereaux, due to her status among the Kilrathi as a respected warrior, who is executed by Prince Thrakhath using his claws to disembowel her (though her death scene is not shown until later in the game.) The scene then cuts to the planet Vespus, where Christopher Blair and Brigadier General James Taggart inspect the downed wreckage of the TCS Concordia. The carrier is a total loss.
It is the year 2669, and the Terran-Kilrathi War has been going for over thirty years, with no signs of stopping. Blair, by orders of Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn, is transferred as Wing Commander to the TCS Victory, a Ranger-class carrier twice as old as Blair. Her captain, William Eisen, has been with her for many years, and is proud of his ship. There are a few old faces—Col. Ralgha nar Hhallas, and Major Todd "Maniac" Marshall—but all the other pilots and staff are people Blair has never met. Among the characters on board, Blair notably meets fellow pilot Robin "Flint" Peters and Chief Fighter Technician Rachel Coriolis, with either of whom the player may eventually choose to start a romance.
The Victory is currently assigned to the Orsini System, away from the front. Shortly after Blair's arrival, and a few introductory mission, a test pilot, Major Jace "Flash" Dillon, arrives on board the Victory with his prototype warcraft, the F-103A Excalibur heavy fighter. Blair is given the chance to "borrow" it for a live combat mission. This angers Flash who challenges Blair to a simulator duel. If Blair wins the duel, he forces Dillon to request reassignment to the Victory's flight wing. Immediately afterward the Victory is rerouted to the Locanda System, where the Kilrathi are deploying a potent pair of new weapons: the KH-19Y "Skipper" cruise missile, which is equipped with a cloaking device, and a genetically-engineered bioweapon for use against the Locanda colonies, the home of Robin "Flint" Peters. Blair and his wing are scrambled to defend Locanda against several flights of these missiles. Even if the player is able to destroy the missiles, Flint breaks formation and attacks the Kilrathi forces in an act of revenge. The player is given the option to follow her, though she returns safely in either case.
Admiral Tolwyn rendezvouses with the Victory, escorted by several destroyers. The Victory is the key to his latest plan, which involves the escort and defense of the TCS Behemoth; an extremely large vessel with a forward cannon capable of destroying a planet. Blair is to defend it while it is used against Kilrathi assets. Following the destruction of a Kilrathi planet in the Loki system, Thrakhath appears with a squadron of Pakthan bombers and taunts the Victory over subspace radio. He reveals that Blair is the game's titular "Heart of the Tiger;" the Kilrathi have bestowed this warrior's name on him as a sign of respect. Thrakhath's forces attack the Behemoth. A traitor aboard the Victory has transmitted comprehensive targeting data to the Kilrathi revealing the Behemoth's weakpoints, and the Behemoth is destroyed. Thrakhath then takes space in his personalized Bloodfang fighter to challenge Blair in single combat. He taunts Blair with an FMV recording showing how he personally disemboweled Angel after her colleagues had been disintegrated. Blair's instinct is to accept, but if he does, the Victory will leave without him being in an indefensible position. When he returns to the Victory, the player chooses between getting drunk or grieving in another way. If the player chooses getting drunk, he must then fly an emergency scramble drunk, with the game controls not responding reliably making combat virtually impossible and generally resulting in the player being forced to eject.
After a retreat to the Alcor System, Paladin arrives. He too has a scheme for bringing about the end of the war. He reveals that it has something to do with why Angel was captured; he also reveals that he's known about Angel's death for months. Paladin's scheme involves a weapon called the Temblor Bomb. The Kilrathi home planet, Kilrah, is seismically unstable, and if the Temblor Bomb is dropped in just the right place, the planet will shake itself to pieces. Angel was assigned to set up a number of hidden asteroid supply caches, which the delivering pilots (Blair and his wingmen) will use to resupply for the long journey into Kilrathi space. Matters are complicated when the traitor is revealed as Blair's friend Ralgha nar Hhallas. He kills one of the Victory's pilots, Lt. Laurel "Cobra" Buckley, steals her fighter and makes for Kilrathi space with news of the planned T-Bomb attacks. Blair has the choice of chasing him or letting him go. If he gives chase, the carrier is attacked and Lt. Mitchell "Vaquero" Lopez is killed in the fight, for which Blair is held responsible. If he chooses not to follow Hobbes, the storyline proceeds as planned.
Blair tests a Temblor Bomb on a planet in the Hyperion System, featuring atmospheric combat for the first time in the series. Upon returning from the mission, Blair has the option to choose to initiate a romance with Flint or Rachel. Flint refuses to fly with him if he chooses Rachel, Rachel refuses to help him with his missile loadouts if he chooses Flint, and both are grumpy with him if he chooses neither. Finally, he launches against Kilrah, with up to three wingmen of the player's choice. After successfully downing Prince Thrakhath above Kilrah (and Hobbes, if he was not killed earlier), Blair descends to the surface and delivers the bomb. The resulting explosion wipes out a great deal of the Kilrathi fleet and destroys Kilrah (and kills the emperor of the kilrathi), but damages Blair's fighter as well; a surviving Kilrathi capital ship tractors him in. To his surprise, he has been retrieved not to be killed, but so that the Kilrathi, commanded now by Thrakhath's retainer Melek, can surrender. The war is over. The surviving Kilrathi begin to colonize a new homerworld and now want to live in peace and harmony with the humans. The credits are preceded by scenes of Melek and Tolwyn formalizing the treaty, and Blair returning home with the love interest of his choice or alone, if he chose none.
There are two possibilities if the character is killed in combat. The normal one, in which the player does not eject from his craft in time, Blair's ship is seen spinning through space, and Blair screams "See you in Hell!" before exploding.
If the player ejects, he is rescued by Confed. If the player ejects a second time, he is instead captured by the Kilrathi. The Crown Prince, out of respect for Blair's performance in the war, gives the option of death by his claws. If the player does not opt for this, he is instead disintegrated.
While mostly following the plot outlined above, authors Keith and Forstchen made a number of decisions and changes to increase the tension of the novel. In chronological order:
- Blair's Gold Squadron flies Thunderbolts exclusively before transferring over to the new Excaliburs. Green Squadron runs the Longbows, Red Squadron has Hellcats and Blue Squadron flies Arrows.
- Flash arrives, not as a test pilot for the Excalibur, but from the Locanda system as a replacement contributed from a Home Defense squadron. He retains his "hotshot" mindset and rank of major, however, leaving Blair the unwelcome problem of having two extremely senior officers on his flight wing who are also complete hot-doggers.
- Blair fails to save Locanda.
- Forstchen-created character Kevin Tolwyn makes an appearance as a courier, preparing the Victory for the admiral's arrival. Lone Wolf, now a major, declines to join Blair's wing only because it would pain his uncle.
- Thrakhath's declaration that Blair is the game's titular "Heart of the Tiger" occurs while the pilots are in their cockpits, scrambling to defend the ill-fated Behemoth (instead of standing around on the Victory's bridge. Flash, flying on Hobbes' wing, is killed in the ensuing fight.
- Since Hobbes knows about the Temblor bomb project, there is no question of allowing him to escape. Hobbes uses voice recordings to impersonate Buckley, but when Vaquero (Cobra's wingman) hears what has happened, he engages Hobbes, as per Blair's orders to "stop that bastard at all costs", and is killed just as Maverick arrives to finish the job.
- The novel includes a scene inexplicably cut from the PC version of the game, though not the PSX version: Blair finding a message in Hobbes' locker, explaining his treachery. Ralgha nar Hhallas, a loyal Kilrathi, volunteered for a special operation, in which his original personality was overlaid with one that would be much more sympathetic to humans. This personality defected to the Confederation over ten years ago and has served them loyally. However, nar Hhallas's original personality could be reactivated via certain audio cues—namely, hearing Thrakhath saying Blair's Kilrathi warrior name, "Heart of the Tiger"—and this personality has served Kilrathi interests with characteristic loyalty. In the end, though, both personalities have come to respect Christopher Blair and value his friendship, and it is with regret that they betray him.
- Blair chooses Rachel.
- Flint, Winston "Vagabond" Chang and Maniac, the only living Gold Squadron pilots at this point in the novel, fly with him to Kilrah. Vagabond is shot down on the second leg of the journey (though he survives through unspecified means to return in Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom), Flint is killed in space above Kilrah, and Maniac is shot down in the planet's atmosphere, though Maverick is described as catching a glimpse of what might be an ejection seat (Marshall also returns in WC4).
Collectible card game
|Designer||Jeff Grubb and Don Perrin|
|Publisher||Mag Force 7|
|Playing time||approx 10 min.|
Basic Reading Ability
The Wing Commander: Collectible card game was an effort to combine the franchise's rising fortunes with the rising interest in card games, as Magic: The Gathering was revolutionizing gaming centers the world over. The Collectible card game (CCG) was based exclusively on the WC3 intellectual license and contains no characters found elsewhere.
The game supports two players, one as the Kilrathi Empire and one as the Terran Confederation (rules modifications may be made to allow teams of players instead). In the pre-game phase, players set out five "Nav Point" cards in an X pattern, with a Terran and Kilrathi carrier at either end (to form a hexagon). During gameplay, players may deploy fighters, and then deploy pilots and equipment upon those fighters. Every card has its own "Power Point" cost; players start with 30 Power Points and gain two each turn. The designers recommend pencil and paper for the keeping-track of Power Points. Finally, certain cards feature "Medals," which also feature as a resource, as some elite cards require the "tapping" of Medal-bearing cards to deploy.
Fighters, with pilots and secondary armaments potentially attached, move among the nav points, fighting with each other and attacking the enemy carrier. During combat, either player may play "Maneuver" cards to fortify their fighters (assuming the targeted plane have a Maneuver statistic high enough) or "Battle Damage" cards to cripple their enemies; both have Power Point costs. Attacks are then resolved by comparison of the aggressor's Attack value with the defender's Defense value (with Support values from allied ships augmenting as appropriate). Each card lost results in the loss of one Power Point as well.
There are two ways to win: to destroy the enemy carrier (with the successful use of Torpedo cards) or to reduce the opponent's Power Point pool to zero.
- Colonel Christopher "Maverick" Blair: the player character and the main protagonist, played by Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame. Blair continues his tradition of boy-scout moral judgment and personality.
- Colonel Ralgha "Hobbes" nar Hhallas: a Kilrathi defector who brought the Ghorah Khar system into the Confederation. His callsign is sometimes mistaken to reference an old comic strip character. As stated in WC-II, Hobbes is called so after Thomas Hobbes because of his intelligent and philosophic nature. Solid, reliable and a consummate pilot, he serves as Blair's second-in-command. Played by John Schuck in an animatronic costume.
- Major Todd "Maniac" Marshall: the frenetic, irresponsible younger brother to Blair's more calm personality, played by Tom Wilson of Back to the Future fame. An inspired but undependable flyer, Maniac is the source of much of the humor in the game—as well as many of the outtakes provided in the game's special edition. In a famous outtake used as a "stinger" after the end credits, Wilson/Marshall points after the recently departed Blair/Hamill and asks wingmate Robin "Flint" Peters (portrayed by Jennifer MacDonald), "Isn't that the guy from Star Wars?"
- Lieutenant Winston "Vagabond" Chang: rarely found far from a deck of cards in the Victory's rec room. He is older than Blair and has seen quite a bit of the galaxy. He once worked for Dr Severin, a scientist of dubious conscience who will nonetheless play a significant role in the Confederation war effort. Played by François Chau.
- Lieutenant Mitchell "Vaquero" Lopez: his most prized possession is a six-string guitar, which he is often found playing. He dreams of opening a cantina after the war. His devotion to music disappears in the cockpit, though. Played by Julian Reyes.
- Lieutenant Laurel "Cobra" Buckley: a woman driven entirely by hatred, her entire family was killed by the Kilrathi. Received her call sign after Captain Eisen saw her direct, lethal flying style. A cold, private woman, she actually shows a sense of humor on the few occasions Blair manages to get her to relax. Naturally, she is extremely suspicious of Hobbes and takes every opportunity to implicate him as the cause for their misfortunes. Played by B.J. Jefferson.
- Lieutenant Robin "Flint" Peters: a witty, pleasant brunette who loves the purity and freedom of flying. Her father and brother served in the Locanda System Home Defense Force; Davey was killed on his 22nd birthday, and her father vowed to dedicate his next 22 kills to his memory. He was going after the 22nd when he too was lost in the book, in the game he is only "flying a desk these days." Now Flint flies for both of them. Played by Jennifer MacDonald.
- Major Jace "Flash" Dillon: an incredibly gifted pilot, but so conceited that even Maniac notices. If the player chooses to "borrow" Flash's Excalibur, Flash challenges Blair to a simulator duel; if Blair wins, Flash joins the Victory's flight group. Played by a not-yet-discovered Josh Lucas.
- Captain William Eisen: Jason Bernard plays the middle-aged captain of the Victory. Though initially he and Blair are a bit wary of each other, they soon come to respect each other.
- Chief Petty Officer Rachel Coriolis: the lady in charge of keeping the Victory's fighter craft in fighting condition. Played by adult film actress Ginger Lynn Allen in her first non-adult role.
- Lieutenant Ted "Radio" Rollins: The Victory's communications officer, and a fount of paranoid theories and doom-saying. Played by Courtney Gains.
- Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn: played by Malcolm McDowell in a portrayal so celebrated that it has been retconned onto all of Tolwyn's previous appearances. Wily, charismatic and not a bit unbalanced, he is still one of the finest and most respected admirals in the fleet.
- Brigadier General James "Paladin" Taggart: Blair's fellow Tiger's Claw survivor is now deeply entrenched in Special Operations work. Played by John Rhys-Davies.
- Colonel Jeannette "Angel" Devereaux: Blair's lover, referred to by Thrakhath as his "lair-mate". She is involved in a top-secret operation for General Taggart, the results of which prove to be vital for Confederation war effort. Played by Yolanda Jilot.
- Crown Prince Thrakhath nar Kiranka: the grandson of the Kilrathi Emperor and first in line to succeed the throne. A much more devious villain, he still meets his end at Blair's guns. Voice acting provided by John Rhys-Davies.
- Melek nar Kiranka: Thrakhath's retainer, the first Kilrathi to bow to the Heart of the Tiger. Voiced by Tim Curry.
- The Kilrathi Emperor: The principal antagonist of the game, and the supreme ruler of the Kilrath Empire. Despite his old age and his grandson's aggressiveness, he continues to rule Kilrah with an iron fist, and is careful not to underestimate the humans. His first name remains unknown. Voiced by Alan Mandell.
- Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger at MobyGames
- Wing Commander Combat Information Center (CIC)
- The Unofficial FAQ list for Wing Commander III and Wing Commander IV.